During a recent visit to Poland I was able to visit three local schools. Here is what I found out.
- start school at age 7, (class 0 for six year olds.)
- six years primary school ( Skola podstawowa)
- three years Gimnasium (lower secondary).
- Three to four years Lizeum. (Upper secondary) different types technical, administrative, vocational and academic. Competitive entrance exams – schools graded by performance.
- Final exam “matura” leading to university or further training – pupils concerned by government proposals to introduce two tier system.
- Regular competence tests at all stages of education. Repeating the year very common.
- Following change from two to three stages of education primary and gymnasium share accommodation so wide age range in one building.
- No uniforms – too expensive .
- Large families – grand parents look after children – less need for nurseries .
- 50% attendance acceptable.
- Holidays follow different pattern from UK – three months off in the summer.
- All day school but some days only three lessons – pupils can go in late or go home early.
- No playtime – ten minute breaks between periods (twenty minutes in some schools) and a twenty five minutes in middle of the day.
- Minimal teacher presence during breaks. One teacher even left her class with work while she showed me around. Few problems in country or small town schools but major difficulties in cities and large towns.
- Pupils bring sandwiches to eat during the breaks, staying indoors sometimes sitting on the floor.
- There is a well stocked tuck shop. Only bigger schools have a canteen.
- Some small schools have a dining room for children from poor families.
- Main meal “Obiad” eaten when children come home and this might be quite late in the afternoon. They then have supper about 8 or 9 p.m..
- Schools well cared for with clean brightly painted walls.
- Display of school’s own ceremonial banners
- Information posters – few examples of pupils’ work.
- Cleaners in school all day and they have their own room.
- Coats hung in cloakrooms , kept locked during the day.
- Very teacher led and pupils did very little on their own – the best way to keep discipline.
- In language lessons overreliance on translation into Polish.
- Examinations and grades the main motivation.
- Emphasis on rote learning rather than independent thinking.
- Polish language work consists mainly of reading comprehension and grammar work there is not much essay writing. The Polish language is highly inflected on a par with Latin or Russian so children probably need to concentrate on learning the rules.
- Pupils buy all their own books. Each subject has one text book for the year there is an accompanying workbook. Jotters also used. Heavy school bags.
- Books have dense text not much white space.
German lesson – first year lower secondary
Janet Storey 22 May 2007